I don’t belong here anymore.
The thought crept into my mind today as I stood in the baby section. I was there to grab a gift for an expecting friend, but as I looked around at the old familiar shelves, I was hit with a wave of emotion.
Because it’s true—I don’t belong here anymore.
There was a time when this aisle was my most frequented on trips to Target.
As a pregnant twentysomething with a growing belly, I would hold up outfit after outfit and wonder what our baby would look like. Who would he or she be?
As a brand new mom, only a few days home from the hospital, I was overwhelmed with fear, doubt, and love. So much love.
As an exhausted mom, running on not nearly enough sleep, I’d wander up and down the rows like a zombie, forgetting what I had come for and bouncing the fussy little one pressed against me with a wrap.
As a defeated mom, I was so much deeper in the trenches of postpartum anxiety than even I realized, and I think I subconsciously hoped to find myself again in those aisles.
This section used to be so familiar. It’s where I would smile knowingly at other young moms and catch the wistful gazes of grandmothers as they saw a past version of themselves in my tired eyes and cart full of babies.
I didn’t realize until today how seamlessly our life had spilled from one aisle into the next—a visual representation of the years spent watching our babies grow.
It turns out, I blinked.
Diapers, formula, and newborn socks aren’t on my list anymore. Nowadays, it’s Level 2 readers and big kid-sized shoes.
Now, I belong in the school drop-off and pickup lines—where I kiss goodbye and hello to not one, but three kids each day.
I belong in the bleachers, cheering as they dribble up and down the court.
I belong as a class volunteer for holiday parties, special events, and field trips.
And now, I belong two aisles over where I pick out size 8 pants and medium sweatshirts for the boy who is no longer a baby at all.
Even though I’m so in love with the days we’re living, the nostalgia still takes my breath away sometimes. Without warning, a lump rises in my throat when I find myself face-to-face with an old newborn photo, or here, in this section of Target.
I’ll wish I could go back, even just for a day.
Not to relive the exhaustion, uncertainty, or anxiety—but to remember what it was like to feel fluttery kicks from within and the warmth of a rosy cheek pressed against my chest, sleeping contentedly as I ran my errands.
This season of raising littles into bigs is more beautiful and more fleeting than I ever could have imagined.
I don’t belong in the baby section anymore, but I will always belong in whatever season of life these kids of mine—my babies—lead me into next. And that is the most beautiful truth I could ever hold onto.